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The Real Answers Behind Esthetics in a Medical Setting

By: Terri A. Wojak
Posted: July 31, 2014, from the August 2014 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
The Real Answers Behind Esthetics in a Medical Setting

Working in a medical setting is the goal for many skin care professionals today. Practicing esthetics with a physician is a great career option and definitely has its advantages, including continued learning; clinically proven treatments and products; the ability to help all clients through direct referral; and opportunities for client interaction. Although having a career in the medical field may seem glamorous, there are several details estheticians may not be taking into consideration. Following, four common misconceptions about working in the medical field as an esthetician will be disputed.

Myth No. 1: “I can perform medical services as an esthetician while working with a physician.”

Truth: An esthetic license offers the same scope of practice, regardless of the place of employment.

Estheticians are meant to cosmetically enhance the skin, and medical professionals are meant to treat conditions or abnormalities. Estheticians are licensed to perform skin care to whatever extent their state license allows—for most states, this includes beautifying the outermost layer of skin. The misconception that estheticians are able to perform medical treatments often comes from the physician’s ability to delegate procedures to nonmedical professionals. Medical delegation differs by state—just like esthetic regulations do—and some states are more strict than others. Treatments can only be delegated to trained professionals following a medical examination by the physician.

The confusing part is that estheticians are often the first team members a physician will delegate to, because they are knowledgeable about the physiology of the skin and how to care for it. However, in Illinois and several other states, estheticians cannot legally perform laser procedures, or any other medical procedures, while working under their esthetic license. Therefore, if a physician were to delegate a procedure outside of an esthetician’s scope of practice, she would technically no longer be working as an esthetician, but rather as an assistant to the physician. These regulations should not be taken lightly—failing to follow them can result in a loss of licensure.

Myth No. 2: “I do not need additional training to work in a medical setting; the office team will provide on-the-job training.”

Truth: This may occur in some cases, but most employers now want experience or advanced training on skin care and cosmetic medicine.

Working in a medical setting is vastly different from working in a spa. Even if the esthetician is hired to provide skin care services and recommend products to enhance and maintain results of medical procedures, support team members—including estheticians—will likely be involved in some aspect of client care. An esthetician may be asked to speak to clients about skin care as they are waiting for their procedure, or lend a helping hand in a clinic room.

It is important that those looking for work in a medical office are aware of some of the unpleasant things they may witness. Team members will likely see blood, skin infections, wounds and even surgical procedures. Although medical procedures are often viewed in videos and on the television, it is much different experiencing them first-hand. In fact, some students pass out while observing clinic procedures during their training programs.